Kabaw Valley : A Historical Perspective
- Part 1 -

By Budha Kamei *

Kabaw Valley
Kabaw Valley - Pix :: DocNelson/Flickr

Manipur is located at the extreme eastern corner of India. With an area of 22,327 sq kms, the Manipur of today is bounded on the north by Nagaland, on the east and south by Myanmer (Burma), and south-west by Assam. A very charming hilly State which had once separated Assam and Myanmar before the creation of present Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Mizoram out of Assam, Manipur had enjoyed the fortune and glory in the past and experienced sorrow and vicissitudes of her long history.

It saw the transformation from a primitive tribal State to an independent kingdom and later from princely State of British India to a State of the Indian Union. Three major ethnic groups namely; the Meiteis in the valley and the Nagas and Kukis-chin group of people at the surrounding hills occupy the State. These ethnic groups belong to Mongoloid racial stock and speak Tibeto-Burman languages.

Manipur literally means the city or the land of gems. In the past she was known by different indigenous names such as Kangleipak, Poireipak, and Meitrabak. But the term 'Manipur' was first officially introduced during the reign of Pamheiba also known as Garibniwaz (1707-48). [Gangmumei Kabui: 1991, History of Manipur Vol. 1, New Delhi, p.1]

These local names seemed to have signified certain portions or areas of the present State during various phases in the early period. It had been a long march for Manipur in her historical development from a small clan principality at Kangla, Imphal to a most powerful kingdom including the surrounding hills. Once it did extend its territories to Kabaw Valley, now in upper Myanmar (Burma).

Kabaw Valley, a track of land, lies between Manipur sector of Indian's boundary and the western bank of the Chindwin River also known as Ningthi to the Manipuris. In other word, it lies between Kalewa and Tamu, down to the Chindwin River which forms the eastern boundary of Manipur. [Gangmumei Kabui: 1988, The Lost Territory of Manipur: Cession of Kabaw Valley, N. Sanajaoba (Ed.), Manipur Past and Present, New Delhi, p. 23; A.C. Benerjee: 1943, The Eastern Frontier of Britsih India, Calcutta, p. 261]

According to a colonial writer, "Kabu Valley lies between the Heerok or Yoma range of mountains, which bounds the eastern side of the Manipur Valley, and Ningthee or Kyendwen River. It commences from the foot of the hills in latitude 240 30 north and extends south to 220 30, where it terminates on the left bank of Kathe Khyoung or Manipur river, which falls into the Ningthee, and marks the southern limit of the Kule Raja's territory". [Alexander Mackenzie: 2007, The North East Frontier of India, New Delhi, p. 175]

The valley is divided into three subdivisions of Samjok (Thandent), Khumbat (Khambat) and Kale. The Shan holds control over the valley. Gangmumei Kabui, a renowned historian of North East writes, in the 19th century, the valley was a subject of dispute between Manipur and Burma which is a large territory covering 3000 sq. miles, now forms a part of upper Chindwin District of Burma. [Gangmumei Kabui: 1988 The Lost Territory of Manipur: Cession of Kabaw Valley, N.Sanajaoba(Ed.), Manipur Past and Present, Vol.1, New Delhi, p.23]

The name Kabaw is a Manipuri word for Shan, reflects the present of different cultures in Kabaw Valley. [Josheph R. Castile: 1988, Chin and Burmese Landscapes in the Kabaw Valley of North West Burma, Proceedings-AAG Middle States Division, Vol.21, p. 26] In the first haft of 19th century, the inhabitants of the valley were mostly Shans, Manipuris, Burmese and tribes who were culturally and ethnically related with the people of Chandel District of Manipur.

In the valley, the Shans are in majority and there are also Manipuris who had settled down here from very early times. The valley is rich in natural resources; stand-stone, slate, hornblende, ironstone, lignite coal etc are found at the Angoching Hills. [Gangmumei Kabui 1988: 24]. The products of forest are teak, fir, bamboo and keo.

In the 19th century, gold washing was widely done in the Chindwin and the small rivers flowing through the Kabaw valley had gold clay. [RB Pemberton: 1835, Report on the Eastern Frontier of British India, Calcutta, Pp. 13, 28, 30; NN Acharryya: 1988, Manipur in the Eyes of Foreign Historians, N. Sanajaoba(Ed.), Manipur Past and Present, Vol.1, New Delhi, p. 41]. Considered as a rich forest produce, possession of the valley was taken indispensible for border security by both Burma and Manipur. Obviously both the countries had endeavoured to extend their sovereignty over the valley. And this had resulted in frequent border dispute between the two countries.

The settlement history of the Kabaw Valley is so filled with a mixture of fact and legend that sometimes separation of the two is all but impossible. [GER Grant Brown: 1960, Upper Chindwin District, Burma Gazetter, vol. A (Rangoon Superintendent, Government printing and stationary, 1911; New reprinted 1960), Pp. 31-32] However, the arrival of the Shan people during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries is well-documented. [DGE Hall: 1960, A History of South East Asia, London: Macmillan and co. Ltd, p. 133]

They settled first at Kale Valley because it has better soils. The Kabu Valley is semi independent and the northern and middle portions are ruled by raja of Samjok whose raja is hereditary in his family. In olden days, Kabu Valley was sometimes under Manipur and sometimes under Burma. It was in the possession of Burma on the outbreak of the first Burmese war (1824-1826), and had been so for twelve years before. For about the same preceding these twelve years it had been in the possession of Manipur. [Alexander Mackenzie 2007: 176]

The chronicles of Manipur speak about the invasions of Kabaw Valley by the Manipuri kings and conquest the same country from the first haft of the 15th century. R. Brown writes, about 300 years ago, a raja called Pakungba who is credited for the consolidation of Manipur power occupied the Kabaw Valley. [2001:59] But no detail is mentioned. Cheitharol Kumbaba records, during the reign of Khumomba(1263-1278), the Kabaws invaded the Khuman and Khuman with the help of Khumomba drove out the Kabaws.

Some of them were captured as prisoners. In the year 1443 Ninthoukhomba (1432-1467), a powerful ruler with a determination to expand territorial limits of the kingdom, raided Alka inhabited by Shans of Kabaw Valley (Tamu) in Chindwin basin of upper Burma and conquered it. [I. Ibungohal Singh& N. Khelchandra Singh (Ed.): 1989, Cheitharol Kumbaba, Imphal, p. 19; Oinam Bhogeswar Singh (Ed.): 1966, Ningthourol Lambuba, (up to Pamheiba), Imphal, p.219]

It was an early attack on Shan principality of Kabaw Valley by a Manipuri King. Then, king Kyamba along with Choupha Khekhomba, the king of Pong invaded Kyang, a Shan principality of Kabaw Valley and conquered it. Since he conquered Kyang, the Meitei king was called Kyamba, the conquered of Kyang and the two kings celebrated their victory with great pomp, and demarcated their boundaries under the treaty of 1470 concluded between the two rulers. This was the first ever treaty Manipur had entered into with a foreign country.

Manipur boundary extended up to Mungkhang Muwai and the land of the dwarf mango groves was for Pong; in the east, it was up to Loijiri Hills, in the south up to Miyatong Hill. It was pointed out that regarding Samjok, the eastern portion was for Pong and the western portion was for Manipur. [R.K. Jhalajit Singh :1965, A Short History of Manipur, Imphal, p.73; B. C Allen: 2002, Gazetter of Naga Hills and Manipur, Mittal Publications, N. Delhi, p. 13; R. Brown: 2001, Statistical Account of Manipur, New Delhi, p.58; also see Cheitharol Kumbaba 1989: 19- 20]

Thus a major portion of Kabaw was made to Manipur. Pemberton also records, the joint forces of Manipur and Pong made campaigns in the Kabaw valley and defeated the raja of Khumbat in 1475 and divided the conquered country between the two countries and Kubo was annexed into Manipur in 1475. [Gangmumei Kabui 1988: 24; Lal Dena: 2008, British Policy towards Manipur (1762-1947), Imphal, p. 21]

Shan chronicles also record the event. [Acharyya 1988:43] This treaty and demarcation clearly showed international recognition of Manipur Kingdom by a power in upper Burma as the former exercised full fledged sovereign power having internal and external independence in the true sense of the term. [Gangmumei Kabui 1991: 195- 196]

Manipur did not rule the conquered territory, Kabaw Valley directly. The Shan princes were left to rule their respective territories with a wide measure of internal administration subject however to payment of annual tribute which they paid in silks and paddy. The obligations of Manipur were to protect the Kabaw Valley from Burmese invasions and to prevent armed conflicts among princes.

To fulfill these obligations Manipur maintained a network of intelligence in the Kabaw Valley perhaps unknown to the Shan princes. [RK Jhalajit: 2010, History of Medieval of Manipur in Souvenir Chahi Taret Khuntakpa Ningshing Numit, Hojai, Assam] According to Gangmumei Kabui, officials from Manipur were constantly posted in strategic positions in Kabaw Valley like Tammu and Angoching Hills on the west bank of Chindwin River.

Meitei villages were established in strategic points of Kabaw Valley and the route connecting the valleys, the first important village being Kwatha, a betel nut planting village of the Meiteis established by Kyamba. Since the political relation between Manipur and Shan principalities in Kabaw Valley was important the vassal states were to be clearly watched and controlled. [1991:210-211] This was done mainly to integrate Kabaw Valley with mainland Manipur. After Kyamba, Manipur sent a number of military expeditions to Kabaw Valley and Chindwin basin. In the first haft of 16th century, the successors of Kyamba could not continue to maintain strong political grip over Kabaw Valley. Due to physical distance from the capital of the kingdom and the absence of direct administration over them, these tributary principalities tried to be free from political control of Manipur.

They were also encouraged by the bigger States in upper Burma and the central political power of Ava. However in the second half of the century, Mungyamba reestablished his control over them. The name Mungyamba literally means the conqueror of Mungyang. It is said that Mungyamba (1562-1597) invaded Mungkhong Mung-yang in the eastern fringe of the Kabaw Valley and defeated Shan ruler.

He captured guns, a golden statue of a cock and five chiefs including two with the title of Chaopha (Sawbawa) like Chaopha Mangtra and Chaopha womsing. Ningthourol Lambuba has recorded that he captured one hundred chiefs including the chief of Akla. Mangsha was also defeated and its chief Khangcheng was taken prisoner. In 1578, the Khamram was fixed as the boundary between Manipur and Shan states. In the year 1571, he conquered Samjok and in the next year 1572, the Kabaw Shans were defeated. Again in 1582, Mungyamba raided Samjok and in 1597, he conquered Kyang and Shan Yathek in Kabaw valley. [Cheitharol Kumbaba 1989:29; Gangmumei Kabui 1991:205]

Considered as one of the most famous rulers of medieval Manipur, Khagemba (1597-1652) who had acquired a proper training in the fields of military warfare, and diplomatic skills from his father conquered more areas and expanded the State territory further besides consolidating his sway over the whole Angoching and Kabaw Valley. In 1602 Khagemba invaded Kyang and 177 prisoners were captured. In 1607, Samjok was invaded and 60 prisoners were taken.

In 1614, he made another raid in Kyang in which he captured a white horse called Maramba and invaded Samjok again. In 1649, he conducted last raid to Samjok and devastated. He also made invasion Chakpa village, Angoching Hills on the bank of Chindwin River. [Cheitharol Kumbaba 1989:37, 41; Kabui 1991:211-13; Jhalajit 1965:102] Thus, Kha-gemba consolidated his position in the Kabaw Valley.

To be continued ....

* Budha Kamei wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on September 16, 2011.

* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.

  • Mera Chaorel Houba @ Kangla #2 :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 02 Oct : Govt of Manipur
  • Chingangbam Ranju: Gold in Skateboarding
  • Clean India Campaign 2022 at MU
  • Prof without a PhD
  • Bio-security to prevent diseases in livestock
  • COVID-19 : Impact in Manipur :: News Timeline
  • Befitting response from 'unwanted' parents
  • Stand of STDCM & WMC : ST demand
  • Lamyanba Irawat Birth Anniv #1 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 01 Oct : Govt of Manipur
  • North East cheers for now
  • Loving Her :: Poem
  • Revoke Show Cause Notice to Dr Sanatomba
  • This Gujarat Model is worth replicating
  • The age-old art of Chola bronze statues
  • Laklaroi Amuk Hanna Yeningtha #2 : Gallery
  • October Calendar for Year 2022 : Tools
  • Old Lambulane, was a trend setting locality
  • Agniveer recruitment rally at Mizoram
  • Prevention of parasitism in livestock #3
  • The ground zero of gratitude
  • Eye makeup products every girl should have
  • Another statewide observance of Irabot Day
  • Saluting the Lamyanba : Respecting dissent
  • How does the full moon make waves...
  • COVID-19 Status 29 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Legalising production & sale of liquor
  • RKCS Children's Painting Competition
  • Online Essay Competition
  • Significance of World Heart Day 2022
  • A kind of feeling :: Poem
  • Free rice and plight of state's farmers
  • Lifting prohibition after 3 decades
  • Linthoi Chanambam : First Judo Gold Medalist
  • COVID-19 Status 28 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Featured Front Page Photo 2022 #4: Gallery
  • Sore Admiration :: Poem
  • Accountant Assistant @ Amber & Arthur
  • World Heart Day 2022
  • Indo-Naga Talks (2012-) :: News Timeline
  • Plastic menace: Time over for warning
  • Promoting cycling in Imphal
  • Mera Chaorel Houba @ Kangla #1 :: Gallery
  • Tripura Fashion Week @ Agartala :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 27 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • ST status demands in India #2
  • Socio-cultural tourism in NE India
  • Investigation against CRPF Personal
  • Backache in diabetics: Never ignore it
  • 'Poison' liquor still favourite for commoners
  • What has happened to the ban on SUP ?
  • Maibi Jagoi @ Thangjing Haraoba :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 26 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Lamyanba Irabot Ningsing Tha : Plantation
  • World Pharmacists Day 2022
  • Workshop of Wildlife Crime Prevention
  • Genius is knowing when to stop !
  • Naga final pact as Nagaland polls near
  • Lifting prohibition : Talk of the day
  • Tarpon Chaklen Katpa @ Andro #1 :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 25 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Lamyanba Irabot Ningsing Tha : Fingerlings
  • Tripura Fashion Week in Agartala
  • World River Day & our environment
  • Nubank : banking industry in Brazil
  • Opposition parties struggling to dent BJP
  • From High Court to Supreme Court ?
  • Lokchao Bridge @ NH 102 :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 24 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • What were Phizo's last words to Khodao?
  • Priyadarshini, Priyanka: Everest Taekwondo
  • I swear :: Poem
  • Incomplete lifting of prohibition
  • Prevention of parasitism in livestock #2
  • Wakhal Eronba- Sumang Leela #1 :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 23 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Arbin Tonjam: best designer - Miss Manipur
  • Lamyanba Irabot Ningsing Tha at Ithing
  • Ferry to Ganges :: Poem
  • Making public health messaging entertaining
  • Student schooling order exposes fault...
  • Discipline : The common thread
  • Camping @ Shirui Lily Fest #1 :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 22 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Youth : An idea can change the world
  • Perceived class conflict triggers friction ...
  • The tale of a forgotten diary
  • Face Redness- How to get rid of it
  • CADA - Govt on collision course
  • Inching towards a final pact ?
  • Border Pillar Inspection @Kamjong :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 21 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Strange bed fellows attempting to cohabit
  • Training for entrepreneur in Food Processing
  • Recalling Alzheimer once again !
  • New Education Policy : The CUET rigmarole
  • Liquor for better health! Indigestible
  • Now focus on ST demand
  • Byron Aihara - A True Lover of Manipur
  • International Day of Peace 2022
  • Human Capital Formation, need of the hour
  • Prevention is better than cure !!
  • Prevention of parasitism in livestock #1
  • Security Conference at Tamenglong
  • Concrete action must follow 'CM Da Haisi'
  • Tag of a dry State for the last 30 years
  • Pungyam Yeiba Fest @Singjamei :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 19 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • National Bamboo Innovation Challenge
  • International Day of Peace & environment
  • Lamyanba Irabot Ningsing Tha: Social Service
  • World Bamboo Day celebrated
  • Domestic capitalists unwilling to trust & invest
  • Street food vogue boon for youth
  • Sit-ins demanding inclusion in ST list
  • Down Memory Lane: My Years with MSAD #3
  • COVID-19 Status 18 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Licypriya to attend UN General Assembly
  • Screenwriters invited to 6-month screenlab
  • An ideal civil servant
  • Tripura Fashion Week in Agartala
  • Opposition parties struggling to dent BJP
  • Taking the customer for granted
  • Miss Manipur 2022 #2 :: Gallery
  • Irabot Ningsing Tha : Jagoi Competition
  • Bringing drug users to mainstream society
  • Namo Birthday special: India matters globally
  • Criticizes village occupation in Ukhrul
  • Use of local agri wastes as substrate
  • Jiribam Keithel [15 June] #1 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 16 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Boeing University Innovation Leadership
  • ST status demands in India #1
  • Literacy enhancement as a career choice
  • Agniveer recruitment rally at Assam
  • Ignoring the perfect solution to everything
  • Eyeing to end insurgency in next 5 years
  • Laklaroi Amuk Hanna Yeningtha #1 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 15 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Manipuri Muslim (Pangal) Historical Society
  • 7th election: NE Student Org, Jalandhar
  • Macnivil releases new song: Price they'll pay
  • Youth advocating for sexual health & rights
  • Engineers : The backbone of any Nation
  • IBSD celebrated Hindi Diwas
  • Who is at fault for shrinking roads?
  • After 25 years of negotiations
  • Heikru Hidongba @Bijoy Govinda #2: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 14 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Joint Accordant by NSCN/GPRN & NNPGs
  • In search of Khubak Ishei
  • Lamyanba Irabot Ningsing Tha at Bishnupur
  • Beauty benefits of Amla
  • STDCM sets sight on bandh to draw Govt
  • The unplanned city of Imphal Concrete jungle
  • Down Memory Lane: My Years with MSAD #2
  • COVID-19 Status 13 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Constitution & flag still dogs settlement
  • Churachandpur - The chaos and mess !
  • Rice Afrika is using tech to increase rice
  • Voluntary Blood Donation: An act of solidarity
  • Nagaland desperate for solution to Naga issue
  • Final solution likely very soon: Note key word
  • Miss Manipur 2022 #1 :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 12 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Is there a need for another Nupi Lan ?
  • Consultation: Development at Lairouching
  • Bullying : Losing of children's dignity
  • Social Entrepreneur, social currency they earn
  • AMSU in dire need of support of CSOs
  • Mum on the points of JCILPS, STDCM
  • 57th Hunger Marchers' Day #3 :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 11 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • 1st Anniv: The Keithel Store Pune :: Gallery
  • Beyond Teachers' Day
  • On farm production of Mycorrhizae
  • Onam and the legend behind it
  • COVID-19 Status 10 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Fake voters testify official nepotism
  • From 1999 to 2022 : TSE is now 23
  • Yaoshang Thabal Competition #3 :: Gallery
  • Kholao Deben went with the Queen
  • Imaginary grudge severs human relations
  • A Phenomenally Him :: Poem
  • Bharat Jodo Yatra: Last ditch effort...
  • Special Lok Adalat for Imphal & Bishnupur
  • Pineapple Fest @Bunglon, CCpur :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 09 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Tarpon: Annual offerings to the dead by living
  • Book review: Aeromycology over Kachai lemon
  • On saying Hello
  • Himalayan Day celebrated at IBSD, Imphal
  • Get rid of strawberry legs at home
  • Manipuri driver primary source of 'Loyalty tax'
  • The 'tax-extortion' argument
  • Down Memory Lane: My Years with MSAD #1
  • COVID-19 Status 08 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • [Jobs] Biotechnology ignition grant for NE
  • 1st Anniversary of The Keithel Store Pune
  • International Literacy Day & our Environment
  • 1 Lakh Hand Sanitizer Bottles handed over
  • Pinning hope on Sangai fest to draw tourists
  • Points to study from Mizoram
  • Heikru Hidongba @Bijoy Govinda #1: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 07 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Schedule Tribe Demand, Recent cries
  • Intricacies of core issue in Naga insurgency
  • On Poiroukhongjin High School issue
  • Celebrating International Literacy Day, 2022
  • Condemn physical assault on women vendor
  • Scoundrel official undermining essence of ILP
  • Is the ban on SUP effective ?
  • Ayekpam Shyamsunder's life & works
  • Book release: 'Osman Thambal' at Imphal
  • World Sexual Health Day celebrated in NE
  • Manipur Tech Univ: top at India Hackathon
  • Insomnia :: Poem
  • Change - Inside Out!
  • Biological control in agriculture #2
  • Nearest-to-home posting of teachers policy
  • Addressing shortage of teachers
  • Ibudhou Thangjing Haraoba #6 :: Gallery
  • Ancient Manipur kingdom and Brahmanism
  • Teachers' role in multicultural North East
  • Regarding closing 34 Assam govt schools
  • mPharma is revolutioning access to medicine
  • Asking to believe as we receive
  • 10 years of TPC: Success collectively shared
  • Significance of observing Teachers' Day
  • Krishna Janma @ ISKCON :: Gallery
  • Growing support globally to end HIV medicine
  • Teachers' Day & My Rumbling Thoughts
  • Soibam Bindeshori : Indian Prime Icon Award
  • Can't public figures drink & dance
  • Climate emergency
  • Jumping ship trademark of state's politicians
  • Switching side from JD (U) to BJP
  • Sit-in for Meetei ST @ Kongba :: Gallery
  • Meira Rally against Drug Traffic #2 :: Gallery
  • 57th Hunger Marchers' Day #2 :: Gallery
  • Reception of Linthoi Chanambam :: Gallery
  • Jiribam Train station [15 Jun] :: Gallery
  • Haipou Jadonang - Martyr Day :: Gallery
  • 13 August observed by CSOs :: Gallery
  • Mirabai Chanu: gold @ Commonwealth Game
  • Rules of English Pronunciation : Download
  • Sub-Syllables in English : Book Download